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DOJ indicts Garin, 19 others for homicide over Dengvaxia mess

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MANILA – Prosecutors have found probable cause to indict various former and current health officials, led by former Health Secretary Janette Garin, for reckless imprudence resulting to homicide in the deaths of eight children who were administered the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine without the necessary precautions.

Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Markk L. Perete announced Friday that aside from the DOH officials, likewise named in the 127-page resolution recommending the indictment were officials of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and international pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur Inc.

Aside from Garin, recommended for indictment for eight counts of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide were DOH doctors Vicente Belizario Jr., Kenneth Hartigan-Go, Gerardo Bayugo, Lyndon Lee Suy, Irma L. Asuncion, Julius A. Lecciones, Maria Joyce U. Ducusin, Rosalind Vianzon and Mario S. Baquilod.

Likewise charged were Maria Lourdes Santiago and Melody Zamudio of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Socorro Lupisan and Dr. Maria Rosario Capeding of RITM and Sanofi Pasteur’s Carlito Realuyo, Stanislas Camart, Jean Louis Grunwald, Jean Francois Vacherand, Conchita Santos and Jazel Anne Calvo.

The DOJ, on the other hand, ordered the dismissal of the same charges against Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, former officer-in-charge Dr. Herminigildo Valle, Sanofi Pasteur Inc.’s Pearl Grace G. Cabali and Maria Ester Vangaurdia-De Antoni.

Likewise, cleared from the charges were officers and directors of Zuellig Pharma Corporation, namely Kasigod V. Jamias, Michael Becker, Ricardo J. Romulo, Imran Babar Chugtai, Raymund T. Azurin, Nilo P. Badiola, John Stokes Davison, Marc Franck, Ashley Gerard S. Antonio, Ana Liza A. Peralta, Rosa Maria M. Chua, Danilo J. Cahoy, Manuel J. Concio III, Roland Goco and Ma. Visitacion I. Barreiro.

“The Department of Justice (DOJ) clarifies that the finding of neglect against those who administered the immunization program using Dengvaxia should not, in any way, be used to stoke public fear of vaccination,” the DOJ said in a statement adding that the decision “reiterated the high degree of accountability and caution demanded of those who adopt and implement policies and programs involving public health,”

“Holding to account those who neglect to discharge their duties to the public with utmost caution and competence is the best deterrent against the repetition in the future of the criminal neglect exhibited by respondents,” the DOJ said adding that “it is likewise the best assurance that all government health programs — immunization drives included — will confirm to the highest standards of safety and efficacy,” the DOJ added.

The prosecution panel found inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight by the respondents when they facilitated with undue haste, the registration and purchase of Dengvaxia citing evidence that Garin and the other respondents circumvented various regulations in the purchase of PHP3.5 billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccine which constituted proof of their reckless imprudence.

The DOJ prosecution panel is composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Ma. Emilia L. Victorio, Assistant State Prosecutors Christine T. Perolino, Susan B. Azarcon and Alejandro C. Daguiso and Associate Prosecution Attorneys Joan Carla V. Guevarra-Garcia and Jerome I. Coronel. The resolution was approved by Prosecutor General Richard Anthony D. Fadullon.

The resolution also faulted Sanofi officials for failing to actively monitor and conduct close surveillance of Dengvaxia recipients.

It also found that Sanofi did not extend any medical assistance to the victims or their families even after reports of serious adverse reactions surfaced.

The DOJ cited a “dangerous recklessness and lack of care or foresight as to the outcome of their actions,” adding that respondents “totally disregarded the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine,”

At the time of purchase, the Dengvaxia vaccine was not listed in the so-called Philippine National Drug Formulary (PNDF). A purchase request for the vaccine was made as early as January 2016. Actual purchase was made in March 2016.

Republic Act 9502 otherwise known as the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 prohibits the government from procuring drugs and medicines which are not included in the PNDF.

Meanwhile, Executive Order 49 s. 1993 requires PNFD listing before drug purchases by the government can be made, the DOJ noted. (PNA / Benjamin Pulta)

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